Archive for Saturday, August 15, 2009

Neighbors urged to report domestic abuse

August 15, 2009


Domestic violence toll

• A person died from domestic violence every 21.5 days, on average, in Kansas during 2007.

• A total of 604 cases of domestic violence were reported to Lawrence police in 2008. Another 84 were reported elsewhere in Douglas County.

• Women’s Transitional Care Services offered aid to 1,274 domestic violence victims in Douglas County in the past year. Of those served, 874 were women, 23 were men and 377 were children.

• A total of 47 percent of Douglas County domestic violence victims were between the ages of 15 and 25.

• In 36 percent of domestic violence cases in Lawrence, the abuser was a boyfriend or girlfriend or a former boyfriend or girlfriend.

• In 97 percent of domestic violence cases in Lawrence, offenders were suspected of using either alcohol or drugs.

— Source: Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant Kansas Attorney General Nola Wright cited a call to police from concerned neighbors as a key component to the prosecution’s case against Matthew Jaeger.

“I think the thing that made the case go was the 911 call,” Wright said. “You had neighbors that were paying attention and that picked up the phone, but there were a lot of people in that apartment complex that didn’t.”

Jaeger was convicted on Thursday in Douglas County District Court of kidnapping and aggravated battery for brutally assaulting his former girlfriend.

His victim, Francie Biggs, is grateful for the neighbors’ intervention.

“They played a big part in telling what really happened. They saw it, and if it weren’t for them, I really don’t know what would have happened to me,” she said.

Often, neighbors are the first to alert law enforcement about domestic violence cases, said Sarah Terwelp, executive director of Women’s Transitional Care Services. The nonprofit organization offers a safe house, court advocacy and other resources to more than 1,000 domestic abuse survivors each year.

“Most of the folks that come to our shelter have not called the police at any point in their relationship. And if they have had police involvement, it is usually because of neighbors calling the police on their behavior,” Terwelp said.

Bystanders are often reluctant to get involved in domestic disputes, even if violence is occurring, said Charlene Muehlenhard, a Kansas University professor who teaches a class on women and violence.

Muehlenhard points to a 1976 study by two Penn State University professors who found that witnesses were more likely to intervene in a physical fight if they perceived the participants to be strangers rather than married.

“It’s the idea that what happens in a relationship is between two people, and you don’t want to get involved between them,” she said.

Terwelp acknowledges it can be difficult to decide whether a domestic dispute warrants intervention.

She suggests that if concern builds over time, a neighbor should approach the potential victim and ask whether she wants the police to be called. They could also pass along information about services that are available for abuse victims.

“It’s better to at least give them a heads-up,” Terwelp said. “But if you can’t and you feel like something is happening that is really, really harmful to that person, go ahead and call the police. You have to use your best judgment.”

If police find evidence that physical abuse has occurred, they are required to arrest the offender, even if the victim doesn’t want to press charges.

During the heat of an argument, bystanders should never intervene themselves, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said. While he doesn’t advocate calling every time someone overhears a couple arguing, he believes that, in many instances, bystanders can sense when a fight has turned violent.

“If at any time you feel like someone could possibly be in danger, someone could possibly be hurt, by all means call the authorities,” Branson said.


svenway_park 8 years, 8 months ago

Good article. Great points to ponder.

Neighbors can make a huge difference.

I remember a female friend who lived next to an apartment from where she heard violence on a regular basis. I asked "why not call the police?" She explained she didn't want to invite violence or vandalism to her apartment as a result of such a call. I could understand her point of view, but I remained conflicted. I hadn't thought about this for years.

I'm certainly glad Francie's neighbors made the call.

Susan Lee 8 years, 8 months ago

I live in another town, and a few weeks ago I witnessed a terrible act of domestic violence on a Sunday afternoon on a rather busy street. On approach, I thought two teens were wrestling. When I got closer, I realized it was a guy beating the holy crap out of a young woman, maybe twenties. When I got right up by their yard, he had her in the air above his head, then he BODYSLAMMED HER TO THE SIDEWALK. I grabbed my phone and dialed 911; she slowly got up (I thought he had killed her) and he tried shoving her into his truck. Eventually she broke free, ran inside . By this time there were 3 other cars stopped. Offender got in his truck and roared off. I was there for an hour and a half waiting to fill out a report - and I must emphasize I did not feel it was a minute wasted. During my wait, he drove back by. The other cars left...but one couple came back and filled out a report too.

A woman arrived while I was waiting, I presume her mother, and there was heated arguments from inside. The next day I drove past (in another vehicle, he got a great look at mine and me) and saw him packing and moving out. He was charged with domestic violence, but I do not know his sentence.

Here is something interesting: While I was waiting to fill out the report,a man pulled up who had witnessed the horrible event. He was talking to me about it when the offender drove by. The other witness took off as fast as he could. He was maybe 30.....I am a 56 year old woman.

Please get involved!

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 8 months ago

If I saw someone being pulled into a car I would pull them right back out. If he had got away with her there would not have been time to save her.

Horace 8 years, 8 months ago

Unless it involves you, or someone in your family; mind your own business.

Evan Ridenour 8 years, 8 months ago

"Horace (Anonymous) says… Unless it involves you, or someone in your family; mind your own business."

My response: I find your statement to be troubling..

I know I would personally prefer that if I were in a dangerous situation that a bystander would come to my aid and I would like to think I would (and I actually have in the past) as well.

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 8 months ago

Irish, please just call the police. Don't put yourself in that kind of danger. I'd hate for my favorite blogger to go missing from these pagers. I'm sure Horace has his own reasons for telling others to mind their own business, he's probably been busted more than once for this kind of thing.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 8 months ago

Saw the headline & thought this was another YH story. Never mind....

StephanieD123 8 years, 8 months ago

I think when a couples arguments are heard and seen as violent then a neighbor or a bystander should definitely call. If couples want to share their dispute by acting violent and loud and I hear it then it becomes my business. If you don't want other's involved in your business then you shouldn't be so loud that other's can hear it and share it with everyone. What is especially sad is when there are children involved. Always call if you hear domestic disputes and there are innocent small children. You would not believe how many newborns get dropped or yanked out of one of the parents arms and are dropped and hurt. They are also in the line of fire if objects in the house are being thrown around and are injured in the disput. It is sad. Not to mention to see the couple fighting and how traumatic it is for a small child to hear and see the abuse. I am glad there were neighbors there that could help this poor girl and were not afraid to get involved. Stand tall and do the right thing for domestic violence and child abuse! Make the call!

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